For Immediate Release - December 17, 2010

Somerville Man Accused of Hate Crime Ordered to Stay Away From MBTA Worker Under Order Obtained by AG Coakley's Office

BOSTON - A Somerville man has been ordered to stay away from a woman that he allegedly verbally assaulted and physically threatened based on her race under an injunction obtained by Attorney General Martha Coakley's Office. Suffolk Superior Court Judge Peter Lauriat ordered the injunction on December 15, 2010, against John Twohig who is accused of a bias-motivated assault against a MBTA bus operator at the Sullivan Square Busway in July 2010.

The order specifically prohibits Twohig from violating the civil rights of the victim and all others in the Commonwealth based upon their race and prohibits him from being within 100 yards of the victim. A violation of the injunction is a criminal offense punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and two and a half years in the house of correction, or if bodily injury results from such violation, a $10,000 fine and up to 10 years in state prison.

"We allege that the defendant engaged the victim in a racially motivated verbal assault that directly interfered with the victim's civil rights and ability to safely perform her job duties," AG Coakley said. "No one should fear for their safety based on their race in the Commonwealth and our office will continue to uphold the law and protect peoples' rights."

According to the complaint filed on November 29, 2010, in Suffolk Superior Court, Twohig engaged in a verbal and physically threatening assault of a MBTA bus operator in July 2010. The complaint alleges that after arriving at Sullivan Square the bus operator parked the bus with doors open, allowing passengers to exit and board the bus. While the operator was waiting to restart her route, Twohig exited another bus at the station and proceeded to board her bus, asking her, "Do you remember me, do you have a problem with me?" After asking Twohig to leave, the defendant responded by screaming profanities and racial epithets at the operator. The operator then contacted the MBTA dispatcher and informed Twohig that police would be responding to the scene. The defendant then aggressively lunged at the operator causing her to brace herself in self-defense. As a result of Twohig's actions, two passengers approached the front of the bus to ask him to leave, at which point the defendant called one passenger a racial epithet. An MBTA Inspector eventually removed Twohig from the bus.

The Attorney General's Office brought this action under the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act (MCRA), commonly referred to as the "hate crimes" statute. Under the MCRA, the Attorney General's Office may obtain injunctions against individuals who threaten, intimidate, or coerce victims because of their membership in a protected class - race, religion, sexual orientation, or disability, for example - or because they are engaged in a protected activity, such as the right to use public ways or places, the right to vote, or the right to associate.

Since taking office in 2007, Attorney General Martha Coakley's office has obtained 42 civil rights injunctions on behalf of victims of hate crimes, often working in close collaboration with police departments and District Attorney's offices throughout the Commonwealth. In addition to the prosecution of cases, the Civil Rights Division actively provides trainings to police officers, school personnel, and community groups to aid in the recognition and understanding of bias-motivated incidents and how to properly respond.

The Attorney General's Office is seeking a permanent injunction against Twohig.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Patricio Rossi of AG Coakley's Civil Rights Division with assistance from Ashley Cinelli of the Victim Witness Services Division, Dante Annicelli of the Investigations Division, and Detective Andrea Purcell of the MBTA Transit Police.